What Happens If We Sin?

At the moment over on Life on Wings, a couple of posts have led to some important discussion in the comments, about both the source of holiness, and also about whether our experience of the power of God is linked to our purity.

I don't really like quoting my own sermons at length - there is plenty of quality teaching available on blogs and sermon downloads - but I feel prompted just to copy into this post my notes from a message I preached back in February entitled "what happens if we sin?" It's a far from perfect message and I am still learning loads about grace - every time I open the scripture, fresh things are hitting me about the extravagant grace of God - but this message is a start, and I hope some find it helpful.

Anyway - here goes (please excuse the note form!):

Text 1 John 1:5-2v1

Last time we looked at propitiation as part of our series on building the kingdom. Looked particularly at two verses: 2 Cor 5v21, Heb 10v14. Established that we have been made perfect forever. But does that mean that, for example, upsetting another person (and grieving God) doesn’t in fact matter? Does it mean that sin doesn't matter?

Does it make us less perfect in God's sight? No! Does it matter? Yes? Why?

I) Why sin matters

  • God saved us to be like Jesus (1 Jn 3v2-3). So if we don’t, we are missing out.

  • It is part of the old life (Rom 6v1-7). We don’t do the things that we are formerly ashamed of. It is very interesting the way Paul argues. He says, that is what you were (1 Cor 6v10-11). Or because of these things His wrath is coming upon (not you) but the disobedient (Eph 5v5-7). Why does sin matter, because it is living as if you have not been transformed. You have been transformed, you are saved and you are perfect, but sin is living like the world from which you have been gloriously delivered.

  • Continual sin can lead to bondage (Eph 4v25-7). Anger and bitterness, and habits can become strongholds.

  • We have been given the Holy Spirit. We are told “do not grieve Him.” (Eph 4v30). It doesn’t say “do not anger him”, because His wrath is satisfied. But we can grieve Him. Not breaking His law, but His heart.

  • As we grow in love for Him, sin becomes more and more unacceptable because He is our Father, and we want to please Him (Rom 5v5, 2 Cor 5v14). You are in a relationship, so you feel His grief. That is the gracious work of the Spirit in us.
Remember, nothing changes our standing, reduces His love, or makes us less righteous in Him, nothing can banish us from His presence, from serving, from praying, from being fruitful – because we are the righteousness of God in Him. Yes that sounds outrageously too good to be true; it almost sounds like a licence to do what we want. But actually, that is the logical conclusion of the gospel. Rom 6v1. Commenting on this verse, Lloyd-Jones says that if our preaching does not lead to this question being asked, then we are probably not preaching the gospel properly.

But Paul’s response is not – of course you shouldn’t sin, remember that God will judge you if you break the commandments. Instead he says – of course not, don’t you know that you have died to that old way of life?

So sin matters. I don’t want to sin, because I have been saved for better than that. I don’t want to sin, because I love Him. I don’t want to sin because it grieves the Holy Spirit.

It’s also important to see to see that the Bible warns us that we will sin. If we say we do not sin then we make Him a liar. On the other hand, the passage says “if you sin.” It’s not contradicting, it is simply expressing a paradox. A paradox is two things that can both be true even though they seem to contradict. It is true that we sin, but sin should be diminishing. So he says “you are not without sin” on the other hand our expectation is not “when we sin”, but “if we sin.” And if we do sin, we have an advocate who speaks in our defence. Who declares over every single sin – “not guilty”. Not “father have mercy” upon them and be kind to them, but “Not guilty” because of the finished work. Because He is a propitiation, He is the One who has turned aside the wrath of God, and satisfied it fully.

In OT, at the Passover, the angel of death examined the blood, not the performance of the occupants in the house. When someone brought a sacrifice, the priest examined the lamb, not the person bringing the lamb. Our Lamb is perfect!

Nothing changes your standing, but I’m writing so you will sin less, and less and less. But if you do, take courage. Nothing changes your standing.

That’s the foundation. But what does happen if we do sin? What do we do? Do we just ignore it and carry on, or do we need to respond, to change, to repent?

But actually there is another question we need to ask first:

II) How do we know what sin is?

  • God’s word. A sword. Double-edged (Heb 4v12-13) – to bring on the one hand challenge, and on the other hope. It is that which exposes the intents and attitudes of the heart. It is the light of God, and as we read it, and meditate upon it, we are shining the light on our heart. A lack of the word can de-sensitise us to sin. We haven’t got the light on. We are fumbling and lost and just simply floundering around. And if we hide it in our heart, we will sin less (Ps 119v11)!

  • The Holy Spirit. Sense His grief. Walking by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5v16). So, as we walk with God, the Spirit will be our guide. His gracious voice, whether we hear it audibly, or simply a touch in the heart, a check, a sense of being unsettled, a lack of peace (Col 3v15). You know. You are no longer walking in agreement (Amos 3v3). He hasn’t left you, but there is a lack of agreement. Feelings that He has left you, are of the devil. He cannot leave us. We are the righteousness of God in Him. If we start thinking He has left us we have moved out of grace into works. We have moved to a place of saying well I need to do something to get the presence of God back. Do something? Jesus was asked “what must we do”. Paul was asked “what must I do?” And the answer in both times was “believe”. No, we do not have to do anything to have His presence in our lives, we are not saved, nor are we kept by our works. But when we sin, we have grieved Him, we are out of step with Him. He is still there, He still loves, He is still a friend that sticks closer than a brother. But we have stepped out of agreement, and so we know that things are not right.
So we know sin, by the Word and by the Spirit, and usually both. God has highlighted sin in our lives. Not to condemn us – the Bible says there is now no condemnation. And how can there be any when the handwriting has been wiped away? No, the work of the Spirit in the believer is to sanctify us. He is changing us, and so He is highlighting the sin in order to bring about that change.

III) So what do we do?

1. Confess

1 Jn 1v9. “To forgive” does not mean eternally forgive, because what happens if we sin and then fall under a bus. It is not eternal forgiveness, but a removal of the grief of the Spirit. So the Spirit is grieved, but the moment we confess, then the grief is GONE.

Confess means “to agree”, to acknowledge “God you are right”. Not a long speech. This is another trick of the enemy – “have I confessed enough?” It’s not a long speech or a written confession, but simply agreeing with God. It’s a heart thing, more than anything, simply to say from the heart “God. I agree! You are right, I am wrong. I have got angry, I have spoken badly, I have hurt someone.” Confession is not a work, it is simply agreement.

Often struggle because we don’t really confess. We say “I am so sorry, I am terrible, I am such a sinner, how can you accept me.” So the focus becomes us! And we end up with a great cloud of guilt.

But it says here “confess”. Tell God HE is right and you are wrong, without excuses. That’s enough and that moment the Spirit’s grief is gone. The grief has gone because you are now in agreement. So you are walking together. You haven’t necessarily got everything right, but you are in agreement. You have confessed.

If after that there is any sense of guilt, conviction, darkness, unsettledness, replay of the sin – it is the enemy. And you have the sword of the Spirit. “I am the righteousness of God in Him… He has made me perfect forever through His sacrifice.”

Is 54v7-10 – a new covenant promise. The purchase of Ch 53 is shown here.

2. Repentance

Rev 2v5 – do the works you did at first. Change your mind. Seek to walk in the Spirit. It is not walking in perfection, but having confessed, getting back to doing what you should be doing.

Also means getting right with the person you have grieved. Yes, we have sinned against God but we may have hurt others. If we wrong others the word says we need to put it right. Live at peace with all men (Rom 12v18). Paul says “if he wronged you, put to me.”(Philemon 18) He was putting right what Philemon couldn’t. The Lord blesses unity, as far as it depends on us we are to leave at peace.

And you know that if we have confessed to God, it makes apologising easier. Confession says “God you are right”, not “God I’m sorry, but did you see what he did, hear what he said, I was provoked Lord.” That is simply stirring ourselves up to bitterness. But to declare to God that He is right (without any excuses on our part), prepares us to get right with the other person – again without any excuses on our part.

And that is a major step in the healing process. If our apology is rejected, then we have done our part, we must leave it with Him. Then we must stand on who we are --- the righteousness of God, been perfected forever, with the garments of salvation.

Because our advocate is our propitiation, there is no wrath, all is turned away. No matter how great the sin, how frequent the sin, nothing changes our standing. There’s no height in the Father’s glory and the Father’s love that you cannot ascend to because there was no depth into darkness and depravity that Jesus didn't descend to on your behalf. And at the cross Jesus identified with you at your worst so that you could be identified with Him at His best.

So you are free to confess without fear of rejection, or God saying “not again.” You are free to confess and step back into the joy and peace in the Spirit, and continue an unhindered walk.

I had a picture in last home group when praying, just for a moment –everyone clothed in radiant, dazzling garments – and my thought if we could only see ourselves as God see us, we would never be condemned, but also would also not want to sin. You are clothed in spotless garments. Garments that guarantee your standing before God forever, clothing that marks you out as His, and clothing that doesn’t belong with sin. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father – all is covered, all is clean – but our garments have fitted us, not for sin, but for the throne room of God’s presence.

And that is why we stand on the finished work of Christ. That is the foundation for personal and corporate growth.


lydia joy said...

Thanks for sharing your notes Pete, this was a very helpful post!
I have a question, maybe you can help with...
If God's wrath was poured out on Jesus for all sin, and His wrath was satisfied, how or why does he still have wrath left for unbelievers? Any thoughts?

Peter Day said...

Well Lydia, that is such an important question - and one I must admit I still don't fully know the answer.

Most people from the reformed tradtion get round the question by simply saying that Christ only died for His church! So the elect will eventually be saved, so Jesus took their wrath on the cross, and when they are saved they enter into the blessing of that.

The trouble with that position, which even though I come from a reformed background, I have always struggled with, is that the Bible is full of references to the world - 2 Cor 5v19 - "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself"; "God so loved the world"...

So I'm not happy with that "get out" from the question, it doesn't seem to be true to scripture.

Others have said simply that Christ too our punishment on the cross, but if you chose to reject the offer of forgiveness purchased for you, then God will deal with you in your sins.

The trouble with this position, is that it makes God look unjust - He punished Jesus and now He punishes unbelievers. Sins can only be punished once.

So I have been thinking and wondering. Then a little while ago (in Invading the Impossible 11), Rob said this:

"That God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself in Christ not counting men's sins against them". Not counting men's sins against them. This is God Almighty - Creator of Heaven and Earth - not counting men's sins against them! Why is He not counting men's sins against them? Because in Christ He was reconciling the entire world to Himself in Christ - not counting men's sins against them! And He is committed to US the message of reconciliation! So what is our message - the message of believers to the lost? God was in Christ reconciling you to Himself and He is NOT CURRENTLY YOUR SINS AGAINST YOU!

At that Cross Jesus Christ obliterated every single sin that every human being would have done from the beginning of time to the end of time. Do you understand that God is not counting men's sins against them and never will? Because the law of double jeopardy says you cannot punish the same crime twice! He has already punished Jesus on behalf of the entire world! He is not counting the world's sins against them!

You say why should people go to hell then? Sadly millions do go to hell. But why? God is not counting men's sins against them! There is only one sin that Jesus couldn't die for! Only one. That is the sin of unbelief. All of His glory - no one sin is going to be judged! He is not counting your sins against you - China! He loves you! He has reconciled you already 2, 000 years ago! He is not going to do it one day! He has already done it! Communist government - He loves you! But there is one sin that He has to count because it is the only sin that locks you out of wonderful benefit of the Gospel - that is the sin of unbelief in Jesus Christ. I want to come back to John 16:8. It doesn't say the Holy Spirit convicts the world of "sins". He has no sins to convict the world of because they are not being counted against them!

He says "sin" singular! "The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin". Sin because (v9) says "they do not believe on Me and righteousness because I go to the Father". In other words when He goes to the Father as our Mediator and our intercessor saying "All their sins are no longer counted" and so the Holy Spirit will convince you that you are the righteousness of God and the Bible says in terms of judgement, He will convict of judgement because the Prince of this world - Satan - has been judged. Where? At the Cross! So the Holy Spirit is convicting the world and us every time we don't believe the message of grace. Every time we don't believe we are the righteousness of God, the Holy Spirit is saying; "Believe on Jesus - believe you are the righteousness of God - I go to the Father, I am praying for you - don't listen to the voice of the devil who is accusing you".

That's the best explanation I have heard so far. I am not 100% sure about it; I am still thinking about it, but one things I am sure of:

God is not unjust. So if people go to hell, God is totally just and totally loving, and "He is not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 2v9). Therefore, while He does send people to hell, it is not His best. He allows us free will to sin, but it is not His best. Somewhere in Ezekiel, it says "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked". So God justly sends people to hell, but it is as if He does it almost "reluctantly". He is a God of justice AND a God of love.

I hope that helps!

lydia joy said...

Yes, that helps! Thanks for your thorough answer!

lydia joy said...

I don't want to be hung up on one verse, but how do you balance all of the above with the verse from Ephesians 5, about God's wrath coming upon the disobedient (or unsaved)?

Peter Day said...

That's a very good question, Lydia! That verse doesn't seem to fit fully with what Rob is saying about 2 Cor 5, does it! As I said at the beginning of this post, I am still learning about grace, and this is an area that I am still grappling with.

One of the things I have learned recently is the importance of taking my theology from scripture and not from a systematic theology. While theological books are helpful, if we stick rigidly to a systematic theology, then we can miss what scripture is actually saying. In my previous comment I mentioned how reformed theology has led many to the conclusion that Jesus only died for the church, whereas scripture says He died for the WORLD!

But that does leave us with a problem! If Jesus died for everyone, then why does God still have wrath against those who don't believe? Rob's answer from 2 Cor 5 does help some, but, as I said, I am still working through this.

And Eph 5v6 states quite clearly "because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." Romans 1, too, "the wrath of God is revealed from haven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men..."

So, having moved out of a system of theology, I am now left with apparent contradictions! But I know that there are no contradictions in God!!

So, to be honest Lydia, I don't have a straightforward answer. I am working on understanding these things!

Perhaps we underestimate the power of unbelief - that unbelief rejects so completely the work of Jesus, that God still sees the unbeliever in first Adam, in their sin. So while the debt is paid in heaven, the effects of the debt still remain until a person receives Christ.

One more suggestion - again, not a complete answer. Perhaps these passages are simply stating the effect of sin, and are not commenting as such on the impact of the cross. Paul is simply stating the truth - sin deserves wrath. And so, in Eph 5, he is making the case that sin is part of the old way of life, sin is worthly of judgement, and so why should we live as if we were still sinners? We don't need to! And, as he goes in to say in Eph 5v8:

"For you were ONCE darkness (that is partakers of the things that are worthy of God's wrath) but NOW you are light in the Lord."

So just a few thoughts. If I get any more revelation, I will share it!

lydia joy said...

Well thankfully I never read any theology books, I am only just now learning what "reformed theology" was, and that is the church life I experienced all along...anyway, I still find it hard to read theological type books, I would rather just talk it out with myself and let the Spirit help me and talk it out with others that have the revelation of grace and the whole gospel, such as yourself...so thanks for taking the time to be so thorough and honest in your replies, I look forward to having the eyes of my heart continually opened more and more...so, yes please do share when you get some more clarity, I would love to hear what God shows you...Thanks!

Oh, and I forgot to mention in your newer post - Have a great holiday - In America, I think we'd say vacation :)

Ben said...

Thank you for this post it really helped me. The enemy is working over time for me to feel down about myself for my sins.. and make sure more often than not I'm tempted to do them. I'm a bad christian for even thinking about sinning right (heh, another lie)?

But yeah thank you.. may God bless you and may he help me. I desire to get close to him but I feel scared and trapped. If you remember to.. and mabye anyone that reads this can pray for me.


stan said...

hey thanks alot for your posting i feel better now and i feel like i understand god more and know how to pray for my sins i apreciate that alot peace!!!!!